Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What Does Freedom Really Mean?

I've just read a thought-provoking article on the difference between freedom and democracy.

There are certain words that Americans have been conditioned to accept as unquestionably good. For example, we automatically associate "freedom" and "democracy" as good, and view them as equivalent. They are not. In an autocracy, the people are forced to follow the will of the rulers. In a democracy, people are forced to follow the will of the majority. In either case, the government is coercive. Our constitution was an attempt to protect citizens from unchecked majority rule.

True freedom is the lack of coercion. The nation that is most free is the one with the fewest restraints on it's citizens. Yet this word has been been corrupted by both political parties.

The political left equates freedom with liberation from material wants, always via a large and benevolent government that exists to create equality on earth. To modern liberals, men are free only when the laws of economics and scarcity are suspended, the landlord is rebuffed, the doctor presents no bill, and groceries are given away. But philosopher Ayn Rand (and many others before her) demolished this argument by explaining how such “freedom” for some is possible only when government takes freedoms away from others. In other words, government claims on the lives and property of those who are expected to provide housing, medical care, food, etc. for others are coercive-- and thus incompatible with freedom. “Liberalism,” which once stood for civil, political, and economic liberties, has become a synonym for omnipotent coercive government.

The political right equates freedom with national greatness brought about through military strength. Like the left, modern conservatives favor an all-powerful central state-- but for militarism, corporatism, and faith-based welfarism. Unlike the Taft-Goldwater conservatives of yesteryear, today’s Republicans are eager to expand government spending, increase the federal police apparatus, and intervene militarily around the world. The last tenuous links between conservatives and support for smaller government have been severed. “Conservatism,” which once meant respect for tradition and distrust of active government, has transformed into big-government Utopian grandiosity.
- Ron Paul

There is very little difference in our political parties now. Both desire an all-powerful state; they only differ in what they wish to control.

If you think about it, most presidential candidates are selling a package of liberties that they will abolish if they are elected. The more benefits they promise; the larger the government intervention; the greater the loss of freedom.

Of all the candidates, Ron Paul is probably the biggest long shot, but he most closely reflects my own views. It is said voters are looking for an agent of change. If that's true, you won't find a better one than Dr. Paul.

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